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CART Force Kalkhoven Passes Away

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 13 2022

KV Racing Technology’s Jimmy Vasser, Tony Kanaan, Rubens Barrichello and Kevin Kalkhoven.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Indianapolis 500-winning team-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, a key behind-the-scenes player during domestic open-wheel racing’s schismatic “sanctioning wars,” died on Jan. 4, 2022 after a brief illness. A native of Adelaide, Australia, Mr. Kalkhoven was 77.

Kalkhoven was co-owner, along with Championship Auto Racing Teams champion Jimmy Vasser, of the No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet that native Brazilian Tony Kanaan drove to a popular victory in the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

Kevin Kalkhoven, a prime player in open wheel racing, passed away last week.

“I met Kevin in 2013, and we quickly developed a personal friendship and a lot of common ground in racing,” Mark Miles, president/CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp., said in a statement. “In many ways, winning that year’s Indianapolis 500 with Tony Kanaan must have been the highlight of his racing life. I’m sure he didn’t come back down to earth for many months.

“Kevin was a colorful, forceful personality who constantly brought new ideas to the table in an effort to grow the sport. I will miss him.”

Indeed, Kanaan’s “overdue” Indy 500 win was the highlight of more than a decade of team ownership for Kalkhoven, who fielded teams in CART, the Champ Car World Series and NTT IndyCar Series for an international list of champions including T.K., American Vasser, Australian Will Power, Brazilian Cristiano da Matta, Canadian Paul Tracy and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais.

Kalkhoven’s teams _ badged as PK Racing, PKV Racing and KV Racing Technology _ earned seven victories between 2003-16 in major North American open-wheel competition. Bourdais, Champ Car World Series champion from 2004-07, scored four victories for KVSH between 2014 and 2016, the team’s final season as a stand-alone entry.

Vasser, the 1996 CART champion, described Kalkhoven as “a giant in both the technology and racing worlds and more importantly, a great friend.”

Vasser added in a statement, “Kevin Kalkhoven lived life to the absolute fullest. He showed how life was to be lived. He was a great partner and dear friend. I will always miss his mischievous smile and uproarious laughter. Rest In Peace Dear Friend.”

Ownership of various racing teams was only part of an extensive involvement in motorsports that began after Kalkhoven’s successful career as a business executive in fiber-optic telecommunications networks and as a venture capitalist.

Kalkhoven joined American businessman/auto racing magnate Gerald Forsythe and racer Paul Gentilozzi in late 2003 to purchase the assets of CART, which had declared bankruptcy at the end of that season. The new Champ Car World Series emerged in 2004 and continued to compete against Tony George’s fledgling, all-oval Indy Racing League, which touted the Indy 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as its anchor. George launched the IRL in 1996 in a bid to return open-wheel racing to its oval roots, develop new domestic talent and reduce across-the-board operating costs.

In November 2004, Kalkhoven and Forsythe bought iconic racing powertrain company Cosworth Engineering and performance electronics/data company Pi Research from the Ford Motor Company.

In an effort to further solidify Champ Car, Kalkhoven also purchased a stake in the Long Beach Grand Prix, a staple of the CART and Champ Car schedules as America’s premier street race.

Kalkhoven and Forsythe reportedly spent untold millions of dollars in an effort to keep Champ Car up-and-running. In February 2008, Kalkhoven and George, in his role as Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO, completed negotiations that reunified Champ Car and George’s rebadged INDYCAR sanctioning organization after 12 years of bitter competition. That period saw NASCAR emerge as the nation’s most popular form of motorsport. 

Champ Car’s final race took place in April 2008 on the Streets of Long Beach, an event co-owned at that time by Kalkhoven and won by Power in a KV Racing Technology entry.

“Motorsports has lost one of its true leaders,” said Roger Penske, current owner of IMS and INDYCAR and a former competitor of Kalkhoven’s teams in CART, Champ Car and INDYCAR. “Kevin Kalkhoven had a great passion for open-wheel racing, and his vision and support helped guide the sport through some turbulent times.

“As a leader of the Champ Car World Series, Cosworth Engineering and the KV Racing Technology team, Kevin had an incredible impact on INDYCAR. Our thoughts are with the Kalkhoven family and Kevin’s many friends and colleagues that are coping with his loss.”

Kalkhoven also was a noted philanthropist. He served on the board of directors of the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, which benefits children with serious illnesses. He also was an avid aviator, with a commercial pilot’s license and experience in a variety of aircraft, including Gulfstream intercontinental jets.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients has included Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 13 2022
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